Friday, August 26, 2011

Conservatives And Evangelicals May Not Go Together Like A Horse And Carriage

At The Front Porch Republic, Darryl Hart has written a provocative post about evangelicalism and conservative politics.  I am going to hit a few highlights, but the whole article is worth reading.

Hart writes,
The shame here is that we are over three decades into the shot-gun marriage of conservatives and evangelicals and the latter have apparently not learned a thing from the Right. . . . Conservatives were often Christian and shared evangelical convictions about the importance of religion as the basis for culture. But Conservatives were never so biblicist about it.
The alliance between conservatives and evangelicals has always confused me.  Conservatives have seemingly used evangelicals as political cannon fodder but have never awarded their foot soldiers the spoils of battle.  The fact that evangelicals keep returning to help conservatives win elections indicates that they have learned little from their political allies.

Hart also points out that relying on the Bible as the source of one's political conservatism is problematic.  First, the Constitution is not in the Bible and the Bible is not in the Constitution.
For most Protestants, the Bible and the Constitution were in fundamental harmony, or at least Protestants were free to interpret the Bible according to the liberties protected by the Constitution. But anyone who has read the Pentateuch, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Constitution knows that the ideals of checks and balances, small government, and freedom of religion, are not readily found in Scripture.
Second, many conservatives don't accept the Bible as a source of authority; instead they appeal to natural law.
Instead, natural law was a way of appealing to a common set of truths derived from the creator of the universe upon which people could try to establish a peaceful, free, and orderly society. It was also the grounds for trusting neighbors who didn’t have Jesus in their hearts; the law written on their hearts would keep these God-deniers from most criminal activity and maybe even lead to genuinely neighborly acts.
Having differing sources of authority may cause evangelicals to see allies where none exist.  Further, being unwilling to accept natural law as authority may lead them to underestimate the many varieties of conservative.  More importantly, evangelicals seem to have no coherent idea of what to do if given the chance to govern.
[Evangelicals] sincerely believe they are conservative. But they have almost no understanding of the various shades of American conservatism and its different thinkers. They think they are conservative simply because they are Christian, never realizing that at least since the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, a lively debate has been going on about the Right and its borders. They think they are conservative because their Bible tells them they are conservative. Yet, they don’t know the world of American conservatism beyond restoring the Decalogue in public life.
Evangelicals allied with conservatives not because conservatives had the same priorities but because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."  This rationale is ironic.   Evangelicals insist that thought and action must be biblical. but they have based their political alliances on a maxim not found in the Bible.

1 comment:

caheidelberger said...

...and don't even get you started on the Ayn Rand disjunction... :-D